Internet commentary

Circuit World

ISSN: 0305-6120

Article publication date: 1 March 2003




(2003), "Internet commentary", Circuit World, Vol. 29 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited

Internet commentary

Keywords: Internet, Pollution

Woe to her that is filthy and polluted... [1]

A new search engine has seen the light of day. It can be found at I have tried it on a couple of occasions, but it is neither as fast nor as complete as Google, which can be found at However, it does have some useful tools that will help you narrow down searches if you are not sufficiently precise with your keywords. Personally, I use Google almost exclusively, which I find excellent, but I usually put in a number of keywords, perhaps even as many as six, sometimes with boolean operators so as not to be polluted with useless responses (the sub-title of this article has nothing to do with this pollution, but with the reviews in the second half of my diatribe!).

E-mail spam is an ever-present pollution problem. The majority of it – or, at least, that which I see – is of a commercial nature, usually emanating from the USA and mostly totally irrelevant. Can you imagine my purchasing an ink cartridge, possibly of doubtful quality, from 8,000km away? Inevitably, I suppose, some of them offer me the doubtful delights of gawping at nubile girls – or even boys! So, what do I do about it? Well, in the first place, I never reply to an invitation to scratch me from their mailing list. This is a sure way of telling them that I have read their e-mail and there is every chance that they will redouble their efforts with you. Then I apply about 30 filters to handle them. Many of these look for any of a handful of keywords in the subject line and, if one is present, the message is deleted without even appearing as having been received. I also automatically delete any messages which contain similar names to my own in the "To" or "C/C" lists. This filtering removes about 70 per cent of the spam. A further 25 per cent is filtered into the "Delete" folder, because I am not 100 per cent sure whether they are meant for me or not. It is quick work to occasionally look through the subjects and delete them manually en masse. One important set of filters is a positive one and directs any e-mail that has not been deleted or redirected and has my name in the "To" or "C/C" lists to my Inbox folder, plus a few similar ones to other specific folders. That leaves about 5 per cent of the spam messages that actually arrive in my in- tray. Unfortunately, the perpetrators of this heinous technique are often a step or two ahead of me, so that it is impossible to automatically eliminate every single span message. At least, I keep it down to a reasonable level.

On the same subject, I have just started trying to use a utility called MailWasher. This can be downloaded, free of charge, from http:// This looks at your e-mail on your server and produces a list, before the messages are downloaded. Anything which it (or you) identifies as spam is bounced back to the sender, unread, as if your e-mail address no longer exists: at the same time, it deletes the message and blacklists the sender so that you can automatically bounce any future messages from the same source. After you have edited the list as legitimate, doubtful or trash, it then opens your regular e-mail client and you can start to download your rightful messages, and only them, as usual. This operation takes an extra minute or so to scan 20 or 30 messages, but my first impressions are that it is worth it. By the way, everything about it is under your control, so that there is little risk of losing a legitimate message, if you set it up to suit your needs. If you are in doubt, you can even preview a message before downloading or bouncing it and that alone is worthwhile. Obviously, with less than one week's experience with it, I cannot yet say just how effective it will turn out to be but I have hopes that it will become so. In 5 days, only two items of junk have slipped past into my e-mail client "Delete" folder and none into my "In- box", as against an average of 15–20 unfiltered items per day, between them, heretofore. I admit that I lost one legitimate message, but I'm not sure whether this was my fault or a problem with the systems heuristics.

Of course, you have seen all this before in these columns. Another thing which you have seen is my constant battle against the propagation of viruses and similar beasties. Believe it or not, I am receiving at least three or four "e-mails" from worms, every week. Most of these are from sources that I have never heard of, although there is the occasional one from my regular correspondents. When will people ever learn? It is so easy to avoid this kind of problem, yet so many people do not. I repeat, there are two ways of avoiding this: do not use Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express and install a good anti-virus software. If you think you cannot afford this, I believe that there are free softwares available on the Internet for downloading. Personally, I use Norton Anti-Virus, which is reputedly one of the best, and a subscription cost for keeping it up-to- date is only about $9 per year – is this too much?

I am sorry to keep harping on at the same subjects but I seem to be a voice crying out in the wilderness! Something, which I have not touched on before, is more agreeable and one of the great beauties of the Internet and this is the ease with which one can download software and driver upgrades. Many a time, when I have discovered a bug in something I am doing, it is sufficient to go to the Web site of the author of the faulty software, download an update – usually free of charge – and install it for the bug to disappear. This is particularly important with operating systems and especially Windows which is notoriously buggy. For example, on one of my computers, I use Windows 2000 but I did not install it until after the second Service Pack was issued. With this update, I was able to obtain a reasonably stable system. Yet I see on forums and net lists, posts from people who complain about a bug that has long since been cured. OK, I do agree that there is one problem with some of these free upgrades and updates. Many of them are enormous in size. I tried to obtain an updated driver for a sound card the other day, to find that the file size was 18Mb – I kept the old one! On occasion, one can sometimes find these large files on magazine cover discs and this is enormously useful.

On the other hand, occasionally an update will introduce a new bug while it cures an old one. This can be very frustrating and I found an example of that, a couple of months ago, with a video editing software. But one of the exasperating features of modern computer technology is the fact that drivers and software often have to be modified or changed with different operating systems. On the distribution CD-ROM which came with my HP 2200 laser printer, there are totally different drivers for Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000 and Windows XP. As I use this printer with both Windows 98 and Windows 2000, in one case on a dual boot machine, through a network joining four computers, this is annoying. Incidentally, the Windows 2000 PostScript driver does not permit double-sided printing, either, but I can do this with the native Windows 2000 PCL6 driver or the Windows 98 Postscript driver. What is most frustrating is with drivers for older equipment, such as my Epson A3 inkjet printer or my professional scanner. Both of these work beautifully under Windows 98SE but it is impossible to obtain Windows 2000 drivers for either (not even on the Net), even though they are only a few years old. I refuse to be drawn into the trap of updating equipment every time I'd like to change the operating system – I stick with the old one!

For my site reviews, I've keyed "printed circuit pollution" into Google. This has given me about 22,100 responses, so let's start looking at some of them.

This page is a good checklist of some of the ways to reduce water pollution. Most of it is sound commonsense, although there are a few doubtful phrases that bear more qualification. For example, "Increase bath temperature – Evaporates bath water, so relatively clean waste rinsewater can be reused as bath makeup water"; this seems to be a rather specious argument because, even if the hotter bath (plating?) were possible:

  1. a.

    it would cause the extracted board to dry off quicker, so that the drain time to reduce drag-out before immersion into a static rinse would be shorter, requiring the rinse to be changed more frequently to prevent undue drag-out into the cascading rinse.

  2. b.

    it would consume more energy, thereby contributing more to global warming.

Notwithstanding these minor criticisms, it behoves us to read this page from time to time, just to keep things right in our own minds.

We all know that California is on the leading edge of industrial environmental awareness, perhaps to the point of excess for some. It has been documented that some industry has been pushed into the more tolerant Tijuana region, as a result this may have the double benefit of reducing the number of Mexicans illegally crossing the border, as a result, but that's another story! However, this page is a useful "Frequently Asked Questions" one, entirely relevant to our subject matter, with a number of good links to other sites, including the previous one. The emphasis is more on the economic benefits of pollution prevention than the technical "how-to" ways of achieving it: the carrot, rather than the stick.

Crossing eastwards from California, we can hop over Nevada and Utah to Colorado, where this page gives a link to how a company in the PCB assembly business has "done its bit" to reduce the environmental impact of its operations. Most of the things they have done to achieve this are incidental, rather than specific to our industry: turn off lights after hours; recycle packaging materials; collect dead batteries for recycling and so on. There are a couple of points on the technical side, such as reducing the use of glycol ethers and collecting router dust for possible further use and metal reclamation. The page is perhaps not too specifically useful for others, but is still "worth the detour" to give some ideas to those seeking to maximise their waste prevention.

This is a techno-commercial case study of an installation to reduce VOC emissions from a PCB manufacturing facility. It is interesting because the system manufacturer has given relatively good technical details of how the system works and why the particular technology was chosen. It does lack facts and figures, though on both capital and operating costs, satisfying themselves by saying that the system gave lowest operating costs. I would have liked to have seen a little more detail in this and a few other matters, but I suppose that prospective clients for similar systems would be regaled with them! 96409.html

Hopping as far north-west as one can go in the USA, we reach Washington State. This is a simple page with a big PDF file to download. It took me exactly 4min and 4s to download its 61 pages with a pretty good connection. Happily, the big file size is not because of fancy graphics – they are minimalist – but to an excellent quantity and quality of text. If you are in the PCB Fab business, do what I did, print it out, read it, then read it again. There is a plethora of excellent, practical, data derived from the experience of 11 facilities, excluding in-house ones, mostly within a 100km radius of Seattle. This document principally treats waste water and hazardous waste, but to the almost total exclusion of air pollution. There is an Appendix entitled P2 (pollution prevention) opportunities correlated to opportunity status. This is interesting as it lists about 130 processes, operations or details of prevention opportunities identified by the PCB manufacturers and the number of plants that had previously implemented each one; selected each for future implementation; implemented each as a result of the project; selected each for further study or rejected each. Obviously, individual processes vary between the plants, so many may be irrelevant to a particular case, but it provides an excellent checklist as to some of the things that can be done.

Crossing right over the USA to Virginia, this page provides a short checklist for PCB manufacturers. However, it is in no way an in-depth study. It may be useful for consultation by any facility within the State, to check on local conditions or for a quick perusal but it is weak compared with the previous site. Again, it seems to ignore air pollution. _owr/noclean.html

This is a report by a Seattle-based non-profit making consultancy, largely funded by govern- mental and state grants, specialising in pollution prevention. This is a case study that briefly relates a project in North Carolina, whereby they reduced VOC emissions by 1,033lbs, liquid hazardous waste by 351gallons, and solid waste (lbs of filter cake) by 1,176lbs in a plant assembling printed circuits. This was achieved by essentially wave soldering flux and cleaning process changes for a total cost of about $25,000, partially funded by the company.

Somewhat trumpet-blowing, but none the worse for that, this is the stated environmental policy of a PCB fabricator in Colorado. It describes their achievements in the field of pollution reduction over the last two decades but, more especially, over the last 2 years. For example, in 2001, the company purchased a new etching machine for outer layers which has caused the copper content of the rinse water effluent to be reduced from 130 to under 10ppm.

At first glance, it is not quite clear what this site is about, other than that it is dedicated to pollution prevention in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. If I understand it correctly, it is a government-funded NGO. The page is a short linked list of resources. One of these particularly caught my attention, because it reports on the (free?) collection of IT equipment from households in a specific area, twice per year, for recycling. Another linked to the Printed Wiring Board Compliance Assistance Center at, but this is a cluttered portal run jointly by the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, the IPC and the US EPA.

We are continuing our tour of the USA to Ohio. This page is succinctly entitled Checklist for the Printed Circuit Board Industry and is just that, but rather short and incomplete, compared with similar documents from other State bodies, reviewed here.

This is a rapidly-loading, three page, PDF document, from Utah, similar in scope, as a "Fact Sheet", to the previous web page, but slightly longer. Although this site is not unique in this respect, there are controversial points here, as well. For example, this document suggests Use treatment technologies (such as ion exchange) that do not use standard precipitation/clarification methods which generate heavy metal sludge. The authors seem to forget that when ion exchange beds are regenerated, the sequestered heavy metal cations are released again into solution: back to square one! pol9908case.htm

This is another commercial casebook, describing two installations: only the second is relevant to our industry and it describes VOC emission control by activated carbon adsorption in a PCB fab plant. This is a fairly standard type of application with steam regeneration, followed by thermal oxidation of the recovered, presumably hydrocarbon, VOCs. I think it should be mentioned that thermal oxidation of halogenated organic compounds is a no-no without expensive precautions being taken, so this process is ideal only for hydrocarbons and oxygenated hydrocarbons.

It does not require prescience to see that all these reviews concern one country, the USA, and that many of the pages are published by State governments. It is true that the USA and some individual States are tough on a few environmental matters but some European and Asian countries can be equally hard or even more so, especially with regard to water effluents. So why is this critique American? At the risk of offending my transatlantic friends, I think that one explanation is that in some countries, environmental controls are simply considered as a natural part of the landscape and we get on with it without any fuss and carry-on, in order to comply with legal requirements. We also have, in some countries, fewer bureaucratic requirements for reporting the simple and correct use of toxic substances. For us Europeans, the document which I reviewed above, from Washington State, ( biblio/96409.html), is a bit of an eye-opener and I venture to suggest that Europeans need less guidance from on high. This is not to say that some of the regulations in Europe are not stupid: many of them are and many of them are considerably harder to comply with than their American analogies. I think that what it boils down to, perhaps, is that there is less state involvement in helping companies comply with the law and, in fact, the authorities become involved only when there is a flagrant breach of it. I am not saying that either is a better way of going about things, there are advantages and disadvantages with both methods. I imply only that this is why the predominance of this subject on the web is American.

It is a pity we cannot have a really level playing field by having a set of internationally ratified regulations based on sound science and not on pie- in-the-sky ideas of politicians and technocrats. OK, I know that this would never work: we cannot even agree over the Kyoto Protocol, which is a small step in the right direction on a matter of much more vital importance for the future of the human race than whether we can discharge 0.1, 1 or even 10mg/l of copper into a public sewage system (yes, this is the range!). Maybe we should start at the lowest common denominator of the latest regulations in the world, see whether they are really sufficient in practice, and only then tighten them, if strictly necessary. Now it's I with pie-in-the-sky ideas!

Brian Ellis,

1 Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city! The Bible, Zephaniah ch. 3, v. 1

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